There Is A Third Option
an interview with Paul McGuire
IEM recently sat down with 2012 graduate Paul McGuire. When Paul entered the IEM program, he was an admitted introvert who had worked in the IT department at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama (BCBS) for 16 years. During the program, Paul decided to act on his passion and created the Affluent Student, and today he recently moved into a new management position at BCBS heading up the Leadership and Professional Development program. How did all this happen, and what role did IEM play? Read on to find out.
IEM: Paul, you recently moved into a new position at BCBS; it’s hard to switch careers, let alone do it in a big company, how did all this come about?
Paul: In October of last year I was online at work and noticed this job posting. I went home that night and told my wife that they just posted my new job opportunity.
It was not that easy though. When you have been the “IT guy” for 16 years, I knew I would have to change some perceptions about me. I’ve always been about continuing education and felt it was important. During my career I’ve taken the company’s classes and noticed it always seemed to be the same small group of people attending those classes. So I felt there was a real opportunity to expand the impact of our leadership programs. I have also been told I’m a good teacher, so I just decided to go for it. But, it was a big risk. In a company this size, word gets around. If you put yourself out there and don’t get what you go after, people know you are looking. It can impact your future prospects in your current organization.
The interview process was intense. Part of it required me to do a presentation. I tried to think outside of the box and remembered I had a video of the presentation I did at the IEM Fall Seminar. I asked if I could submit that. Later they said it showed that not only did I have the skills, but that because other people have asked me to present it gave me credibility. From there the rest of the interview process went fairly smoothly.
IEM: So how did the IEM program help you?
Paul: When I started IEM I was a classic introvert. Learning how to do different types of presentations and then being able to do them in a “safe” environment was extremely beneficial. Next would be the entrepreneurial spirit of the program. It helped me create Affluent Student. And, BCBS noticed my side company as well in the interview process. They were impressed that I was already doing some thought leadership and they actually want me to incorporate it into the new programs I’m developing for the company.
Overall though I think the biggest thing I took from IEM was the ability to think differently. The realization that what you have done to date doesn’t have to define your future, and you have to do something to make things happen.
IEM: So why did you want to make the change?
Paul: As good as I was in IT, I realized IT is a tool in a company like mine. I wanted to commit to BCBS as a company and be involved in how the business works. I want to be that guy that helps leaders across the company solve their problems. At the end of the day I want to help managers become leaders and show them that they are more than just their job or position.
IEM: Are you going to continue with Affluent Student?
Paul: Absolutely, I plan to take some of my blogs from Affluent Student and package them together into books. I’ve discovered that even though all of the information is out there for free, some people just want it packaged together and are willing to pay for it. It will take some work, of course, to bridge the information together, but I’m excited about doing it.
IEM: So what advice would you give those in the IEM program now?
Paul: I think most people enter the program either wanting to advance in their current job, or want to start an entrepreneurial venture. I want them to see that there is a third option if you’re willing to look beyond what your resume currently says about you. You can keep your job, follow your passion, and maybe even transition to a new career.
For more information on Paul and Affluent Student check out his web site at http://www.affluentstudent.com.
Alumni Spotlight with Ken Sawyer, MEng, MED, PMP, CISSP (and there are more…)
You can tell by the list of certifications after Ken Sawyer’s name that he has a passion for knowledge. As a 2009 IEM graduate, Ken still says it is the best thing in his professional life that’s ever happened to him. So, what has Ken been up to since he graduated the program? We caught up with him following his delivery of a beta product to a pretty big client:
Q: What has changed for you following IEM?
Ken: When I came out of the program, I was working for a company called Valmont Industries and I knew that was coming to an end. While my wife and I already had one business in place, Sawyer Systems, I had a friend come to me and ask me to write some inspection and compliance software. I talked with my son, who shares my entrepreneurial spirit and we formed Sawyer Solutions, LLC with our family and then Blue-Sky-Innovations, LLC with my friend’s company. The product is now in beta and it really wasn’t until last month we started to build some steam. The product is being field tested at the Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) and will be in a couple of other locations by the end of December. It’s been a long, slow process, but any start-up is a slow process.
Q: What is your best advice for anyone wanting to launch a tech startup?
Not all IEM clients find their passion in technology – some have found it in food! That is the case with Shane Hill, IEM Class of 2011. His final project was the very successful Alabama Tailgate cookbook. And while his journey has not led him to quit his day job as technical lead at BBVA Compass, it has led to the next book idea and some successful catering gigs. We caught up with Shane to get an update.
This month we go way back to the first IEM class and check in with Todd Miranda, CEO and Creator of NxtDimension Solutions (http://www.nxtdimension.com/default.html), a company that specializes in Microsoft technologies, software and training solutions. Todd ran NxtDimension Solutions on the side for about 10 years, while working full-time. He recently just this past year took the leap of faith and is now doing NxtDimension full-time. In this update he talks about the decision making process to leave his job and follow his passion with his own company.